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Work experience: My week at HarperCollins

Photo: HarperCollins London branch is located inside the incredibly impressive News Building.

I loved every second of the placement, and that is no exaggeration. I was initially a little disappointed when told I would be working in Communications as I assumed this would be mostly the admin tasks, but I was very wrong. It turned out to be one of the most enlightening experiences (although, it was occasionally a little frustrating not being surrounded by books as I knew the other work experience people were). The Comms team is, essentially, in charge of the image of the company. As a result, I learnt a lot about the inner, possibly often over, looked mechanisms of a publishing company which also meant that I had the chance to engage with lots of different members of the company and gain a wider view.

I was also able to see how a speech gets written, undergo research about bookish topics and HarperCollins authors – fascinating! –speak to some very interesting members of the HarperCollins team and write some pieces for the HarperCollins intranet. As someone who enjoys writing, these tiny 200-word announcements were very exciting. Besides the work required from the Comms team I, and the other girls there on work experience, also got a chance to tour The Sun and The Times and to see how the Newsroom worked. It was all very exciting, although I don’t think you’ll get me back in front of a camera anytime soon!

One of the biggest highlights for me was being able to attend the HarperCollins Summer Authors Party at the Victoria & Albert Museum. The party had been mentioned on my induction, so I knew it was happening that week. However, I had no expectation of being invited, people such as Sir David Attenborough, Michael Bond, Judith Keer, Johnathan Freedland, and Eddie Redmayne had been invited; I was only there for work experience. But, Monday morning, I was presented with an invitation and told ‘you’re part of the team, of course, you’re invited’. I barely kept it together for the rest of the day, and when I got back to my hotel room and saw mum, hysterics ensued. I am from a tiny village, population 200, had never stayed in London on my own before (mum left London Tuesday afternoon), had never booked or been in a taxi on my own before and I definitely wasn’t someone who travelled across central London to attend fancy parties. The whole week was a little overwhelming, and I felt a bit like like a fraud. However, mum calmed me down, I had a squeal on the phone with my friends, panicked about my outfit, and put together a game plan.

I went in the next morning and spoke to them about my trepidations. They were brilliant. They had already considered my need for a taxi both to and from the party – I would arrive at the party from HarperCollins with another member of the team, and there would be a taxi waiting for me at 10:00 pm to take me back to my hotel at the end of the night. They checked and confirmed disabled access. Judith Kerr and Michael Bond were going to be there, so they also needed access, and I was given mobile numbers to ring if I lost people or needed something, I cannot thank them enough. Sure enough, and as I should have realized, everything was great, fine, wonderful, amazing, all the adjectives. Whilst I was a little starstruck – who wouldn’t be? – And therefore didn’t introduce myself to all the people I had hoped, it was a fantastic (there I go again) and somewhat emotional night. Charlie Redmayne’s speech about his vision for the future of the company and publishing in general, the impact of the EU referendum result and how they would weather the, predicted negative, effects on the industry, how grateful he was to his team and the authors they represented, made me feel so warm, hopeful (emotional) and positive. At that moment, everything I had been wondering about my plans, became clear. It sounds so cliché doesn’t it, but it’s so true; I was suddenly more excited and more motivated than I’ve been for a while – I need to work with books, in publishing! Above all else, that realization is what I am most thankful for.

The Thursday and Friday passed in a bit of a blur; everyone was tired, myself included, and it was clear that everyone was winding down for the much needed weekend. I wrote a piece about the Summer party for Harper Home, finished my diary of the week, also for Harper Home, helped research an author for a speech that Charlie was giving and also had a chat with the Director of Human Resources which was fascinating.

Before I knew it, the week was up, and it was time to say goodbye, although I dragged it out as much as I could.

It was so much more than just a week of work experience, I learnt so much about myself, and it helped to solidify my plans. I had the best time, met some of the loveliest people, and got to learn so much about the industry that produces my favourite things in the world: Books! It was invaluable, and I shall never forget the experience. Thank you to HarperCollins for allowing me the opportunity and for putting up with my over-enthusiasm and barely contained squeals of excitement, and thank you to Whizz-Kidz who made it possible; if it hadn’t been for mum perusing your website, I don’t think this would have ever happened.

Note: This week of work experience was found and organised through Whizz-Kidz, who are currently being supported by HarperCollins Publishers. Whizz-Kidz aims to change the lives of disabled children by providing the equipment and support they need to live life to the full. If you would like to find out more about their work experience, visit the page on their website. 


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